THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Edward P Wallner - Sun, 2 Feb 1997
There are unfortunately no Queeries by Ralph Edwards for The Sign of
Four. Those given here are suggested as a start on a suitable list.
- Why did Capt. Morstan stay at the Langham Hotel, described by Baedeker as "a great American resort"?
- Why did Mary Morstan have six pearls?
- Why was the letter from Thaddeus Sholto said to be post-marked "London, S.W."?
- How high were the ceilings in Pondicherry Lodge?
- What was the floor plan of Pondicherry Lodge and how were the grounds laid out?
- How did Holmes and Watson maneuver in a four foot high garret?
- Where was Pinchin Lane?
- How did Holmes know that it would be "a six-mile trudge"?
- Why did Holmes refer to "their eight-and-twenty hour start"?
- Since Watson saw Holmes leave in the a.m. "in rude sailor dress", why was he taken in when Holmes returned?
- What is the validity of Small's (and others') rationalizations as to the rightful owner of the Agra treasure?
- Is there any contradiction between Watson's "the day had been a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city." and Jones's comment three days later that "It is very hot for the time of year."?
Chris Redmond - Fri, 1 Dec 1995
"Our quest does not appear
to take us to very fashionable regions," says Sherlock Holmes. This tale
is -- unlike many others in the Canon -- essentially about the middle class
and the suburbs, rather than the older parts of London with which Sherlock
Holmes is usually associated. What attitudes does it take?
"It is a romance!" cried
Mrs. Forrester. "An injured lady, half a million in treasure, a black cannibal,
and a wooden-legged ruffian." Is The Sign of the Four so well-loved
by readers of Sherlock Holmes because of these exotic elements, or in spite
Steve Clarkson - Fri, 22 May 1998
This Adventure has something
for everyone: exotic locales; fierce Sikh warriors; a cannibal shooting
poison darts; a bearded, one-legged villain; a fabulous treasure; secret
hiding places; revenge; war; violent death; betrayal; and romance. It even
has the Victorian version of a wild chase scene. Yet, at the end, Holmes
seems to have been left out in terms of being given credit for his sleuthing
or a reward for running the malefactors to ground...er, mire.
The Sepoy Mutiny (February
1857-July 1859) is thought to have been triggered by a seditious rumor.
Opponents of the British rule circulated word that British rifle-cartridges
had been dipped in pork tallow (the cartridges were paper and needed to
be sealed in some way against dampness). Since the procedure for loading
a musket entailed biting off the end of the paper cartridge, this was a
monstrous affront to the devoutly Muslim Sepoys, who rose up in religious
fervor. This Adventure provides a vivid depiction of the carnage and chaos
that ran rampant in India for more than two years.
Against this background
stands Jonathan Small, implacable Seeker of the Great Agra Treasure. In
some ways, he has always reminded me of Long John Silver in Robert Louis
Stevenson's Treasure Island. Small is a cunning, remorseless, peg-legged
treasure-hunter who will stick at nothing to recover Achmet's jewel-chest
and take revenge on the one who betrayed The Four.
Some thoughts (painful, but
not fatal) which may be worthy of discussion come to mind:
Crocodiles have no way to chew their food. Consequently, they seize
their prey with their jaws and then spin rapidly to literally tear off
a piece that can be swallowed whole. Yet Jonathan Small says a crocodile
"nipped off my right leg as clean as a surgeon could have done it, just
above the knee." I believe that a large crocodile could have sheared through
Small's leg, but the wound would not have resembled a surgical procedure.
And trauma plus the loss of blood would have been fatal in a very short
space of time. All of which makes me wonder: Was Small being truthful about
how he lost his leg, and if he was lying, what would his purpose for doing
so have been?
Watson professes his reluctance to reveal his love for Mary Morstan,
ostensibly because he did not want to be viewed as a gigolo who proposed
marriage to her so that he could lay hands on a vast treasure. And when
it is revealed that the treasure is gone (at this point he does not know
that it is irretrievably gone), he proposes to Mary. Was it because the
treasure no longer stood in his way, or because he wanted to make sure
of getting access to the only remaining portion of the treasure: the pearls
sent to Mary by Thaddeus Sholto?
I have sometimes wondered what kind of thorn Tonga used for his poison
darts. And why were their ends rounded? Wouldn't it have allowed greater
pressure to build up behind them in the blow-gun if the ends were squared
off, particularly in a blow-gun the length of a school-ruler?
What was old Mr. Sherman's purpose in keeping his remarkable menagerie?
And how did he come to refer to Holmes familiarly as "Mr. Sherlock?"
Small said about his slaying of the Pathan prison-guard, "with three
long hops I was on him." How far might a man hop with one leg? Would it
be far enough that three hops would have been a sufficient distance to
prevent detection by the guard while Small unstrapped his leg?
Watson writes of "the great rubbish-heaps which cumbered the grounds"
of Pondicherry Lodge, and remarks to Miss Morstan that "It looks as though
all the moles in England had been let loose in it." At that point Holmes
joins the conversation: "These are the traces of the treasure-seekers.
You must remember that they were six years looking for it. No wonder that
the grounds look like a gravel-pit." This causes me to wonder whether the
brothers Sholto had performed all this mighty labor by themselves, or whether
the "treasure-seekers" might have been rascals who scaled the wall to have
a go at finding buried treasure? I have also wondered what clues or flights
of imagination might have led whoever it was to dig about in the grounds?
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 15 Jul 1999
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 14 Sep 2000
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